DETROIT — Democratic presidential candidates debating in Detroit on Tuesday night decried President Donald Trump’s racist statements and outlined how they would combat emboldened white supremacists as well as address the ongoing effects of historic racist policies.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who recently said he and his wife are the descendants of slave owners, said he would sign into law a new Voting Rights Act as well as a House proposal to create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for the descendants of slaves.
“The very foundation of this country was literally built on the backs of those who were kidnapped and brought here by force,” he said. “The legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and suppression is alive and well in every aspect of the economy and the country today.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who opposes reparations payments, said he favored the plan of Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., to invest 10 percent of appropriated funds in communities where 20 percent or more of the population has lived below the poverty level for at least three decades.
“We have to understand as a result of slavery and segregation and the institutional racism we see now in health care, in education, in financial services, we are going to have to focus big time on rebuilding distressed communities in America,” Sanders said.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, asked about growing white supremacy, including possibly in Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Gilroy, California, blasted the president’s statements and policies.
“We need to call out white supremacy for what it is: domestic terrorism,” she said. “The way we do better is to fight back and show something better.”
Warren pointed to her education policy, including investing $50 billion in historically black colleges and universities.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose community has been roiled by a police shooting of a black man, said that although the racial divide remained an issue, he believed the work in the aftermath of the incident showed progress.
“I’m not saying I became mayor and racism or crime or poverty ended on my watch. Our city, we have come together repeatedly,” he said. “Right now in the wake of a police (shooting), our community is moving from hurting to helping by making sure the community can participate in things like revising the use-of-force policy and making sure there are community voices on the board of safety.”
The 10 candidates onstage Tuesday, selected by a draw for the CNN-hosted event, were all white. The candidates of color took part in Wednesday night’s debate.